South Korea has agreed to buy 70,000 courses of Pfizer Inc.'s experimental antiviral COVID-19 pill, the Korea Disease Control and Prevention Agency (KDCA) said on Saturday.
Pfizer on Friday said trial results showed that its Paxlovid pill reduced by 89% the risk of hospitalization or death in patients at high risk of severe illness within three days of the onset of coronavirus symptoms.
South Korea has already signed agreements to secure 200,000 courses of Merck & Co. Inc.'s COVID-19 treatment. It is looking to buy an additional 134,000 courses, though it is undecided of which treatment, KDCA said.
Last month, the government said it was in talks with Swiss pharmaceutical Roche Holding AG, which is developing an easy-to-administer antiviral pill for COVID-19.
The government had allocated a budget of 36.2 billion won ($30.63 million) for oral COVID-19 antiviral pills.
Pfizer is in talks with 90 countries over supply contracts for Paxlovid, Chief Executive Officer Albert Bourla said in an interview on Friday.
The U.K. has already secured 480,000 courses of Merck's drug and procured 250,000 courses of the Pfizer treatment.
Pfizer said Friday that its experimental antiviral pill for COVID-19 cut rates of hospitalization and death by nearly 90% as the drugmaker joins the race to bring the first easy-to-use medication against the coronavirus to the U.S. market.
Currently, all COVID-19 treatments used in the U.S. require an IV or injection. Competitor Merck’s COVID-19 pill is already under review at the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) after showing strong initial results, and on Thursday the United Kingdom became the first country to OK it.
Pfizer said it will ask the FDA and international regulators to authorize its pill as soon as possible after independent experts recommended halting the company’s study based on the strength of its results. Once Pfizer applies, the FDA could make a decision in as little as weeks.